Should ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces be a certain length?

Dear Carrie

Should I push for my son’s ‘In Their Sandals’ writing pieces to be a certain length?
My son is using In Their Sandals with the U.S. History I guide. He is finishing up his first story. The directions say that there isn’t a set amount of words, number of paragraphs or length required. My son is one who isn’t going to write something lengthy unless directions specifically say to do that. His first story has good sentence structure and vocabulary. It tells the story, but there isn’t a lot of extras. It is fairly short. So, my question is, what if children don’t write very long stories?  And if so, would you say that was okay? Or, should I push for him to make his stories a certain length or number of words? My son and I are both used to EIW where you knew exactly what was expected in the previous Heart of Dakota guides. So, this one is just a little tougher for me to grade and figure out expectations.
Sincerely,
“Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of In Their Sandals Writing Assignments”
Dear “Ms. Please Help Me with Length Expectations of ‘In Their Sandals’ Writing Assignments,”

As we did In Their Sandals, I found that the length of my son’s writings varied quite a bit throughout the year. Since this writing program has more of a creative writing bent, I think that it’s fine to have pretty big variations in length. Grading-wise, as long as my son did a good job completing the planning sheets, made sure to include what was asked of him in the writing, tried to apply the grammar/writing tools mentioned, and did his best proofing and editing, I allowed quite a bit of leeway in the length. This is because for this program it is meant to be freeing for the students not to have a set length to attain. Rather, students can write in a way that suits their intended purpose.

One goal for ‘In Their Sandals’ is to encourage development of a student’s voice, so there are purposefully fewer constraints and greater leeway in length requirements.

For In Their Sandals, if we place a certain length requirement on the student, he/she will begin writing to attain the length rather than allowing the writing be whatever length it needs to be in order fulfill the idea in his/her head. Freedom in writing – figuring out how to take an idea from its inception to finish – with fewer constraints is actually a skill to be developed for this year of writing. It can be tough to write outside of a formula, yet that is where a student’s voice develops and appears. From what you’ve shared, it sounds like your son did very well with this first assignment. I would be pleased with his work.

Blessings,
Carrie

P.S. Check out our Top Ten Christian Homeschool Questions!

Ah…peace and quiet!

Heart of Dakota Tidbit:

Ah…peace and quiet!

Did you know that before Carrie got an office in our house a few years ago that we would rent a room for her at a local motel during her writing season (March to August)? The hotel was just two blocks away from our home, but it was very quiet – something that was occasionally hard to find in a house full of boys! 😀

Have a great weekend!

Stay with Bigger or switch to Beyond for a struggling third grader?

Dear Carrie

Should I keep my third grader who is struggling with reading and writing in Bigger Hearts, or place him in Beyond instead?

Dear Carrie,

I’m a mother of 5. My oldest is doing Creation to Christ. The next two are going half-speed in Little Hearts. My 2 year keeps me hopping, but it is my 8 year old who’s struggling. We are 3 weeks into Bigger Hearts. He’s a struggling reader. He also struggles with writing. During copywork, he leaves out words, writes letters previously mastered incorrectly, copies wrong letters, or leaves letters out. It’s time-consuming for me to sit with him. He has to erase, correct, and it’s still sloppy! He’s not doing the cursive or poetry copywork. He struggles with the Bible verse copywork, the science copywork, and the vocabulary words and definitions. I’m also helping him write the science and history notebooking. Will he just grow into this, or should I have placed him in Beyond? He’s in third grade though, and I don’t want him to get further behind.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Stuggling Third Grader”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Struggling Third Grader,”

Struggling in two of the 3R’s is a challenge when doing Bigger. In looking down the road, I would be concerned that even if he manages to get through Bigger, by the time he gets to Preparing on up, I worry that each year will feel like an overwhelming task for both you and your son. In looking at the fact that he isn’t doing the cursive or copywork of the poem right now, I am also assuming that you might not be getting to the written part of DITHR either? Or, perhaps your son is doing the Emerging Reader’s Set?

The copywork and reading assignments are important preparatory work to be successful in the next guide.

Honestly, the copywork and reading assignments are going to be very important right now. They will help him gain needed confidence and practice in his areas of difficulty. With the workload feeling too heavy in Bigger, it is likely that you will end up downsizing or skipping things that your son will actually need in order to be successful in the next guide.

I’d recommend shifting him down to Heart of Dakota‘s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory.

So, my recommendation would be to shift him down to Beyond. Due to his age, I would keep Rod and Staff English 2 to do daily along with Beyond. I would make sure that he writes a small portion on paper each day for English to practice getting comfortable writing on paper. Since he’s on the upper end of the age range for Beyond, I would also be sure that he completes several lines of copywork of the poem from Beyond each day. He can strive to copy the entire poem by the end of the week.

I’d be sure to do either the Emerging Reader’s Set or DITHR each day.

Then, I would be sure to daily do the Emerging Reader’s Set (if that is where he is) or do DITHR. With DITHR, when you get there, you can do some writing for him at first. You can also write on a markerboard for him to copy on his paper later. Eventually, move toward having him do more of the writing in DITHR in preparation for Bigger.

Give your third grader the gift of time to mature into needed skills.

With boys, it is especially important to give them every chance to mature into the needed fine motor skills. I taught third grade for many years in the public school, and it was easy to tell which kiddos needed a bit more time to mature (and most often they were boys). So, give your little honey the gift of time to grow into needed skills. Don’t worry about adding to the science, as he will still get twice weekly science lessons in Beyond. Just worry about the 3R’s right now and gently ease him into those needed skills daily, along with all of the other excellent skills found within Beyond. Doing all of Beyond well, rather than randomly skipping things or downsizing within Bigger will help your son be more prepared for the next guide the following year.

Blessings,
Carrie

Why does Heart of Dakota use different writing programs each year?

Dear Carrie

Why does Heart of Dakota use different writing programs each year?

Dear Carrie,

I just wanted to ask why Heart of Dakota uses different writing programs each year? I like all that I see in Heart of Dakota, and I’m quite a researcher!  However,  I was wondering what the benefits are of using different sources from one year to another? Write With the Best, IEW, The Exciting World of Creative Writingthey are all so different. I just wondered why one writing program isn’t chosen to continue with year after year?  Thanks in advance for answering my question.

Sincerely,

“Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs”

Dear “Ms. Wondering Why Use Different Writing Programs,”

You are correct!  We have purposely chosen to use different writing programs from year to year in Heart of Dakota. Writing has a definite progression of skills and certain types of writing that are easier to accomplish than others. So, we keep this in mind as we move through the guides. Various writing programs also have different strengths and appeal to different types of learners, which is something that should not be overlooked. Can you imagine if all of our great writers had been exposed to only one particular writing “program” that they all were required to use year after year?  Would it produce as much variety as we see in great writing, or could it instead feel stifling to some writers?

Writing is a highly creative and personal process.

It’s important to remember that writing is a highly creative and personal process. While it does have certain skills that need to be taught, it also requires much more individual expression and output. Thus, it requires a different approach than subjects like math or English, where a certain set of skills are taught and an exacting output is required. In math and English it makes perfect sense to stay the course with a single program. Yet, in writing, it is true that “variety is the spice of life” (and the spice of writing)!

Different writing programs have different strengths.

Having the freedom to choose among the different writing programs available, let’s take advantage of the strengths within each program. Students then can be exposed to a variety of writing experiences and writing approaches. Yet, students can still maintain solid skill progression when formal writing programs are integrated with the writing across the curriculum as scheduled in the HOD guide. Our approach also allows us to be better balanced in seeing the writing program as just one piece of the HOD puzzle each year. This helps us create a puzzle that is put together piece by piece, year by year, so one cohesive picture emerges.

The result? Each student’s own beautifully crafted puzzle. Not the same exact puzzle as another student’s puzzle. But rather a uniquely personally crafted puzzle, with different pieces taken from different writing programs that when put together, create one original masterpiece. Then, a writer is born. So, let us start putting together the pieces of the puzzle to make some new ‘masterpieces’ today!

Blessings,
Carrie